Three hours ago, Mom and Dad picked me up at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. On our way into Evanston, I sat in the backseat of their two-door Ford Focus and furiously typed everything they said into my phone.
One thing to know about my mom: She abbreviates EVERYTHING.
For example, within three minutes, she has described a certain kind of mushroom as “bellas.” I know what she means. But I can’t help myself.
Jenny: What kind of mushrooms?
Mom: The big kind. (She tunes me out.)
Mom asks what I want to do when we get home; I say I’m a little hungry, and my parents come together to describe the contents of the fridge.
Mom: We have plenty of food. Your dad made hummus.
Dad: We have cheese and crackers. (Pause). Grapes.
Dad talks a while about index funds. Then sector funds. Then:
Dad: Where do you fly out of?
Dad (happily): Oh! SFO is pretty easy to get around in.
Jenny (finds herself saying): It’s a pretty well-laid-out airport.
Mom: There are a lot of great shows at Northwestern right now. This one woman. I can’t remember her name. She made her big name playing her cello naked.
Dad: That was only one of her performances. She also played her cello suspended from a balloon.
Mom: Have you read this book?
(She hands a library book into the backseat, but instead of handing it around the side she holds it up with both hands above her head and waits for me to take it. I let it linger, then take it from her hands.)
Jenny (reading the cover): Life Reimagined: The Science, Art and Opportunity of Midlife. Midlife? Why are you reading this? (My parents are 73.)
Mom: It’s really interesting. It speaks about the ennui [“ahn-you-wee”]. There’s a lot of science in it. It’s written like a memoir. She’s a good writer.
Jenny: Where did you hear about it?
Mom: NPR. So I’m probably going to have to return it soon because that’s what happens when you hear about books on NPR (as in, there’s a run on the library in Evanston, Illinois).
Jenny: What does it recommend?
Mom: Keeping active. Trying different things. I’ve been doing this Chinese since January.
Jenny: Chinese what?
Jenny: Chinese what?
Mom: Chinese. Chinese language.
Jenny: Really? Say something in Chinese.
Mom: (Something in Chinese.)
Jenny: What does that mean?
Mom (laughing): “Do you speak English?” It works! Now that I’ve been studying Chinese I can use iPhoto! Oh, Jenny. Your friend published another article in the New York Times. (I know who she’s talking about. She hasn’t been able to remember this friend’s name in 25 years.)
Mom: Your friend. Dubois. Bennett? Benay? It’s three words.
Jenny: I’m not telling you.
Mom: I can look it up in my phone. Gay writer …
Dad: Your mom’s learning Chinese, Jenny, and it’s like ripples in a lake.
Jenny: I thought the Chinese was helping.
Mom (ignoring us): Before, I couldn’t remember there were three parts to his name. And it’s hyphenated.
(Mom murmurs “gay writer,” and I realize she’s actually searching on her phone.)
Jenny: Mom, what keywords are you using??
Mom: I’ll tell you if they work. Aha! Got it! Benoit.
Jenny: What were your keywords??
Mom: “Benoit, gay writer.” Fuck you, Jenny [my last name].
Jenny: What’s the story about?
Mom: LDGB stuff.
Dad (to Mom, who bought them two coffees at the airport): What kind of coffee was that?
Mom: Their regular coffee.
Dad: Hmm. It was nice.
Mom: It was cheaper than all the other ones.
Mom: Jenny, what’s your cell phone service?
Dad and Jenny: Verizon.
Finally, at home, after plates of Dad’s delicious homemade hummus and some red wine:
Jenny: That orchid is really beautiful. How are you taking care of it?
Mom: Watering it.
Mom (to Dad): This wine is good. (Mom and Dad only buy wine from Trader Joe’s and are constantly making a point of exclaiming about how good it is in front of me, the California wine snob.)
Dad: It is. It’s what we used to get in Quincy (my hometown, where Mom and Dad bought wine at Kroger).
(Dad picks up the bottle of wine and steps behind Mom.)
Mom: You can leave that here.
Dad: Rose. (He reaches behind her for a coaster and sets the bottle back down on the table on top of it.) Did you think I was going to secrete it away?
Rose: Just making sure.
Jenny (after a story Mom and Dad told that involved fuses): So where are the fuses?
Mom: They’re next to each other.
Jenny: MOM. WHERE ARE THE FUSES?
Mom: Oh. (Smiling.) In the basement.
Three hours down, 35 to go!
Dad’s homemade hummus:
- 2 heaping cups canned chickpeas
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 6 cloves garlic
- 2-3 TB tahini
Put chick peas, oil, lemon juice, garlic, and tahini in a food processor. Blend until smooth, testing periodically for consistency (add oil or the water from canned chickpeas). Refrigerate overnight so garlic will blend and become less sharp.
This is straight from my dad:
“Presentation: Serve in a flat plate that allows hummus to be scooped with slices of soft or toasted pita bread. Before the first dip you can make it look pretty by edging the serving dish with fresh parsley to make a wreath. A design may be made in the center with pitted Kalamata olives. Shake a little paprika around the surface, then lightly oil with olive oil. Once the first dip is made, your initial design will be distorted, but the combination of the salty olives, paprika for color, oil to enhance the hint of tahini, and the occasional sprigs of parsley, bound to lodge in the eater’s teeth, will make this a hummus to be remembered.”